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Joey Logano Feeling the Need for Speed

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Joey Logano’s situation is pretty simple: If he wants to make the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs this year, he almost certainly needs to win one of the next five races.

And make no mistake about it, Logano and Team Penske expect to make NASCAR’s playoffs every year, especially after advancing to the championship round twice in the last three years.

This time, though, the challenge could be daunting.

Logano heads into Sunday’s I Love NY 355 at the Glen a distant 18th in the Cup driver standings, and 69 points out of the last transfer spot.

On top of that, the Toyotas of Joe Gibbs Racing and Furniture Row Racing seem to have found the speed in recent weeks that the Penske Fords don’t quite have.

Saturday morning at Watkins Glen International, Toyotas held the top three speeds and four of the top five in the opening round of practice, while Logano was seventh, one spot behind teammate Brad Keselowski. Logano’s best lap was 0.734 seconds slower than Kyle Busch, an eternity in NASCAR time.

Earlier in the week, Logano talked about the speed deficit.

“The positive side is that the next four out of five races we’ve won at before. All of them but Darlington,”  Logano said Tuesday night during a screening for the new film “Logan Lucky,” in which Logano is one of a handful of NASCAR drivers with a cameo role.

“We’ve done this before,” Logano said. “We won Richmond this year. Bristol’s one of our best tracks that we always run up front at.  … And Watkins Glen’s been, really, in all honesty, one of our best tracks the last couple of years, finishing second (in 2016) and then winning the year before.”

Logano said he was pointing to Watkins Glen.

“I feel like we should be competitive this weekend,” he said. “Maybe our best shot (to win) might be this weekend.”

But Team Penske needs to find more performance.

“Speed’s been an issue, no doubt,” Logano said. “Yeah. Oh, yeah. It all starts with that. … The speed we had at Pocono, I don’t think you could put the right strategy in to win that race. We were going to fight for 10th. It’s hard to win with a 10th-place car. You’re going to have to get really lucky. Logano lucky, to make that happen.”

The bottom line?

“We’ve got to get faster,” said Logano. “No doubt.”

On Sunday, we’ll find out if indeed Team Penske got faster, or at least Logano lucky. 

Tom Jensen

Tom Jensen is a veteran motorsports journalist. He spent 13 years with, where he was Digital Content Manager. Previously, he was executive editor of NASCAR Scene and managing editor of National Speed Sport News. Jensen served as the president of the National Motorsports Press Association and is the group’s former Writer of the Year.